On the field, acceleration and explosiveness make Victor Hampton a weapon at cornerback for South Carolina.
“He’s been blessed with a lot of ability, not just being fast,” Gamecocks secondary coach Grady Brown said. “If Vic was a sports car, he’d be a top-of-the-line sports car. He’d go from zero to 60 faster than any other sports car out there.”
Off the field, though, deceleration and restraint have been the keys to Hampton’s success and, in fact, his survival as a member of the football team. While his body still heats up quickly, Hampton’s mouth has gone from 60 to zero over the past two years, he said.
“Grow up, bite your tongue,” the 5-foot-10, 197-pound junior said when asked how he has gone from nearly kicked off the team in June 2011, to solid citizen.
“That’s been my biggest thing, biting my tongue,” he said. “I was one of those guys that when I saw something that I felt was wrong, I would get it off my chest. I would say things that other people wanted to say.”
With safety D.J. Swearinger departed, South Carolina needs Hampton “to be a leader,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. The thought of that would have made the Gamecocks coaches cringe in the days when Hampton’s attitude and behavior led to multiple suspensions.
But there are signs of progress. Hampton turned 21 while celebrating spring break at Myrtle Beach last week and managed to navigate that potential pitfall without any trouble, he said.
“I have been talking about growing up and maturing every interview I give, so I am kind of tired of talking about it, I am not going to lie to you,” Hampton said.
Still, “I have come a long way,” he conceded. “Expect no trouble from me from now on.”
Hampton has seen enough trouble during his time in college — and a high school career that featured dismissals from two teams — that he now can see it coming, he said.
“Sometimes when situations come up, I have already been through that situation so I am not going to make that mistake,” he said. “You can be a great player, but if you are a bad person off the field, you won’t get anywhere. I have never felt like I was a bad person. I just felt like I made some small bad decisions and it just followed me. I am just trying to get the bad stuff from behind my name.”
He could do that with a big season this year, and that’s a possibility. Hampton has 54 tackles, two interceptions and one sack in his two years at South Carolina. Last year, he started 12 of 13 games and had 40 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception — a leaping takeaway to seal October’s 38-35 win against Tennessee.
“He played well last season, but I want him to be more consistent,” Ward said. “He had a good practice today. He worked at things. If he continues to do that, he can be one of those corners here who has the opportunity to go play on the next level.”
Hampton would like to have at least five interceptions in the fall, he said.
“I think Vic wants to prove some things to himself,” Brown said. “There were some plays he had the opportunity to make last year that he didn’t make. When he watches film from last year, he realizes he left some plays out there.”
Hampton has the ability to be one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks this season, Brown said.
“He gets to his top speed fast. He’s very quick. He can jump. He’s very strong for his size,” Brown said. “He has all of the raw talent that it takes to be a good cover guy. I think the sky is the limit for him. He could be the next big-time corner to come out of here.”